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GIRL TALK with Jamie Sobrato
The Girl Talk Holiday Gift Guide - November 2005*

Jamie Sobrato   Cindy Procter-King  
Jamie Cindy

Jamie: 'Tis the season for holiday shopping, and that has me thinking about the important issues facing writers and their family members. Namely, how to handle the agent/editor gift giving issue, and also, what to buy for the writers in your life.

Cindy: You mean I'm expected to buy gifts for the writers in my life? Like, you want me to buy you a gift? As if my wonderful friendship isn't enough. Sheesh. Oh, or do you mean we should talk about what non-writers can buy us? Now that's a topic I can sink my teeth into! I'd like one 6'2" personal Swedish masseuse named Sven. He'd come to my house twice a week to massage my aching shoulders—and he'd be a tax write-off, because my shoulders only ache as a result of all this darn typing.

Jamie: Of course I meant ideas for what other people can buy for us! Duh. I mean, really, what do you think I am? An altruist?

Cindy: Well, I might if I knew what "altruist" meant. Either I'm slower than Homer Simpson on rewind or I've been relying too much on my word-processing software's thesaurus, which refuses to acknowledge words like "carnal" and "pulchritude." By the way, I just checked, and it doesn't like "altruist" either. I think I need a less discerning dictionary and thesaurus. Hey, maybe someone can buy me a massive hard cover dictionary for Christmas! I'll put that on my Girl Talk Gift Guide list.

Jamie: As we're making out our lists for Santa, there are plenty of toys suitable for writers (besides Sven) that non-writerly-types (like Santa, and your mother-in-law) would not think to buy for you unless you hint subtly or not-so-subtly. Having just shopped for a new laptop computer, I can say with absolute enthusiasm that a sweet little Sony Vaio FJ series notebook would be a welcome gift for any girl writer. They're cute and light-weight and come in adorable colors like raspberry red and sky blue and that groovy shade of green everyone is wearing right now. I think they also do have some good computer stuff in them too, like a hard drive and some other stuff. Oh, and there's a built-in camera!

Cindy: Hmm, that camera would come in handy when Sven's around... Speaking of cameras, I'd love a new digital. Not a compact baby to shove in my purse for conferences—I already have one of those—but a humdingy digital SLR that will end my pining for my dead Pentax. My new dream camera would have so many pixels they'll clog your email if you don't compress properly, accessories galore to satisfy my inner camera geek, and, most important, a remote clicker-thingie so I can take author self-portraits for my website without running back and forth to press the 10-second shutter delay. Give this little beauty the ability to snap three frames per second so I can pretend I'm Cindy Crawford during my photo shoots, and I'm in do-it-yourself heaven! I love Canons, and I hear the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT is a marvel. Yeah, gimme one of those.

Jamie: I have a Digital Rebel! And it is indeed my favorite gadget (did my most recent author photos and the ones here on the Girl Talk page with it). But perhaps we should discuss some more affordable options for the gift-givers who don't want to stuff stockings with digital cameras. Like you mentioned earlier, a comprehensive collegiate dictionary is always a nice gift for a writer, but in the age of Google, it might be growing obsolete. I still get lots of use out of my Super Thesaurus though, because sometimes it's fun just to browse through looking for words that might spark my imagination when I'm trying to think of a title.

Cindy: Affordable gift ideas? That's no fun! But if you insist... I'm a sucker for desk supplies. I'd love a new letter-opener that's not just a razor blade inserted in a hunk of plastic. Funky desk organizers and bookends are another great choice. I find The Bombay Company a great source of inspiration for all these sorts of gifts.

Jamie: Yes, that's a great store if you fancy yourself one of those old fashioned writers who sits at an antique desk in a velvet arm chair, penning the Great American Novel with a feather-quill pen and a leather-bound journal, unlike tacky people like me who write while lazing around in bed or while sitting outside in a lounge chair.

Cindy: We can't all have class, Jamie! You're lucky that I naturally possess enough for us both (snicker). However, much as I love The Bombay Company, when it comes to contemporary versions of the feather quill, I just adore gold Cross pens. I have two! One with my initials engraved on it and then another without. The first was a 21st birthday gift from my now-husband, but I lost it in the waterbed (don't ask) for several years, so he had to buy me a second. I use my gold Cross pens for autographings and (in my dreams...) signing contracts, scribbling notes when discussing a story with an editor over the phone (something I indeed have done). Another affordable gift is a jump drive for backing up manuscript files. You can attach it to your keychain or stuff it in your bra and keep all your manuscripts safe with you wherever you go!

Jamie: I love that jump drive idea. It may not sound all that fun, but they do come in cute colors, and every writer should have one. Levenger also has an assortment of reading and writing-related gifts, a bit like Bombay Company but more specialized. I'm still trying to get over the fact that some writers actually still write with pen and paper—gasp!

Cindy: It all goes back to that class thing...

Jamie: LOL! I will refrain from further comment on that topic (beeyotch!), just to demonstrate that I do in fact have a little class. But anyway, at Levenger you might find, for instance, a padded tray for reading and writing in bed that would be useful.

Cindy: Or for hitting your head against when the words don't come and a brick wall isn't handy...

Jamie: Yes, there is that too. I think it could even work as a place to put your laptop, if you work on a laptop in bed. My husband would probably be happy for me to stop using his pillow for this purpose (of course I never use it while he's trying to use it…).

Cindy: I think it's sweet that you use your husband's pillow. He's your inspiration!

Jamie: Ummm, okay…

Cindy: All right, he's not, then. I am. Sheesh. As for other affordable ideas, if you're one of those writers who likes to work with the aroma of scented candles filling the room, a candle is easy enough to stuff in a stocking. I'm not a writing-to-music person, but plenty of writers are, so CDs of a writer's favorite soundtracks are another great gift.

Jamie: You mean, like Yanni or something?

Cindy: If musical frou-frou floats your boat, sure! Or orchestral movie soundtracks. Or a compilation of popular songs that suits your work in progress. And, if someone wants to show an unpublished writer who doesn't yet have a website how much faith they have in her ability to achieve her dreams, how about buying her a domain name? Domain sellers like GoDaddy are wonderfully affordable. Call me weird, but I think buying a domain name for your writer-love is romantic.

Jamie: Absolutely. And another gift most any writer would treasure, if he or she doesn't already have one, is an AlphaSmart Neo, a delicious little portable word processor with endless battery life that weighs about 2 pounds and is durable enough to take everywhere. Or let's say you’re really in the mood to splurge—an AlphaSmart Dana is just as nifty as the Neo but has a bigger screen and a few more fancy features.

Cindy: I have an AlphaSmart, and I agree that every writer should possess such a gadget. However, while I'm in gift-receiving fantasy land, I sure wish someone would dream up a desktop computer keyboard a lot like the Microsoft Natural Keyboard—but with the number keypad on the left.

Jamie: Oh boy, here we go with another Cindy-ism (for those of you who haven't noticed, Cindy can be a bit, um…unique).

Cindy: No, practical! You see, I'm not lefthanded, but I never use the number pad and I'm convinced that my poor right hand reaching over the frickin' keypad to get to my mouse is the source of my repetitive-stress problems. However, seeing as Mr. Bill has yet to fulfill my needs (what's his problem—too teensy a market??), I'm forced to direct our readers to Ergonomic Resources, which features dozens of ergonomic keyboards. While I've yet to test-drive any of the site's offering, the Gold Touch Adjustable Keyboard and the Maxim Split Keyboard top my list. Both have completely detachable number keypads! (Too bad they don't come in adorable, girly colors.) Of course, receiving one of these keyboards might eliminate my need for Sven. Decisions, decisions....

Jamie: Well, thinking of all the things we'd like to have is fun, but I guess the gift-giving can't be all about what we want, huh?

Cindy: Bite your tongue!

Jamie: We should probably, um, think about the gifts we want to give other people in our writing life, like our agent and editor.

Cindy: Well, I don't have an agent or editor at the moment (ahem...), but I know my former agent and her boss appreciated the Purdy's Chocolates I sent them while with the agency. I confess it would not have occurred to me to send them holiday gifts had I not read of the practice on so many writers' loops. While I spend a lot of time obsessing over gifts for family members, I also feel the season's become way too commercial and "business gift-giving" falls into that category for me. Of course, I'm the girl who gave her high school graduation date a box of Smarties (Canadian version of M&Ms, but they taste better) rather than a pen-and-pencil set or ID bracelet (all-the-rage grad gifts back in the Dark Ages). He gave me nothing, as per our agreement not to indulge in Obligatory Grad Gift Buying—so I ate half his Smarties. In fact, I may have eaten the whole box....

Jamie: Like I said…Cindy is (ahem) unique. I agree about the holidays becoming too commercial, and so I don't think gifts are necessary. A card alone is completely appropriate and thoughtful. But if you have a friendly relationship and are so inclined, it can be fun to surprise your editor or agent with something thoughtful but inexpensive. Some of my favorite gifts ideas are sending a box of Mrs. Fields cookies or brownies, or a box of Jelly Bellies. My editor was thrilled with her brownies last year. Hmm, I'm detecting a junk food theme in my gift giving habits…

Cindy: I think a junk food theme sounds marvy! Lotions and bath products from a place like The Body Shop would probably also be appreciated.

Jamie: I also think it makes working together more enjoyable if you get to know your colleagues' personal interests somewhat, and then personal gifts that cater to their interests are always fun. So if your editor is into, say, letter-writing, some luxurious stationery would be much-appreciated and doesn’t walk the line of being too personal. You definitely wouldn't want to buy your marathon-running agent a snazzy new sports bra, for instance (unless it's a joke and she has a great sense of humor!), but maybe a running journal would be nice.

Cindy: Jamie, you're entirely too brilliant. I love these ideas. In fact, I like them so much, I'm not going to suggest any of my own!

Jamie: It's good also to remember that while we usually only have one agent and no more than a couple of editors, they have many authors. So I'm sure they don't want to be inundated with desk calendars and tchotchkes.

Cindy: Whatever a tchotchke is. I'm sensing a need for that new dictionary again.

Jamie: Expendable gifts are always nice for these situations. Gift certificates, edible things, and whatever else you can think of that will be here and gone, work well.

Cindy: Hey, I could send my brave future editor or agent Sven for a day. He'd be there and gone before they knew it! Leaving them relaxed and ready to praise me. Very accommodating, that Sven. And, before anyone asks, yes, Sven has a website. But I'm not giving it out, so you'll just have to Google him. You'll come up with dozens of listings, I assure you.

Jamie: Be careful whom you share Sven with. You might not be all that thrilled with him if he and your future editor fall in love and run away to live in Tahiti or something.

Cindy: Hmph, well, if that's how Sven's gonna be, he's off the Girl Talk Gift Guide. At least until next year....

*Links removed in 2008...because they are ancient and might not work anymore.

©2005, Cindy Procter-King & Jamie Sobrato



Jamie writes steamy romances for Harlequin Blaze, loves to waste time on the internet, and kind of wishes she had her nose pierced...or not. Her favorite guilty pleasure is watching bad Sex and the City reruns (though she’ll never admit it—oops, she just did), and she's been known to frequently laugh until she cries. You can visit her website at

Cindy writes romantic comedy for anyone willing to read it, loves to waste time updating websites, and desperately wishes Jamie would pierce her nose so she could tug her around by it. Cindy's favorite guilty pleasure involves back massagers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and bathtubs (no, she won't get more specific).

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